Amid Roe v. Wade Debate, Abortion Survivor Hopes Pro-Choice Forces Acknowledge Her ‘Humanity’

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The debate over whether Roe v. Wade is about to be reversed is personal for abortion survivor Melissa Ohden

After what is said to be a draft of the Supreme Court’s majority opinion in the pending abortion-related case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was leaked Monday night—indicating that the court is poised to overturn Roe. v. Wade—Ohden says she hopes more abortion survivors will be be willing to share their stories. 

“I truly hope that as this ruling comes out, that it will create a space for survivors, and women and families, to finally speak up and to reach out … receive the support and healing that they need,” Ohden, founder and CEO of the Abortion Survivors Network, told The Daily Signal on Tuesday. 

“I felt ashamed. I was embarrassed to have survived an abortion,” Ohden says. 

Ohden was 14 when she learned she had survived a saline abortion, an abortion conducted by injecting a saline solution into the mother’s uterus. 

In 1977, Ohden’s mother, Ruth, was 19 and found herself unmarried and pregnant. Ohden’s grandmother was a nurse and did not give her daughter a choice of keeping her baby or having the abortion. 

“My birth mother was forced to abort me,” Ohden told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. “I don’t like to go into the specifics of it, but when I say ‘forced,’ I mean, literally, there was no other option for my birth mother except to have that abortion.”

Because Ruth was further along in her pregnancy than originally believed, the saline abortion took five days. When labor was finally induced successfully, Ohden was born alive at about 31 weeks, about 9 weeks premature. But Ruth was told her abortion was “successful,” and that her baby was dead. 

Ohden was placed for adoption without her mother’s knowledge or consent. 

Growing up with a loving family in a small town in Iowa, Ohden knew she was adopted, but struggled when she learned her birth family had tried to abort her. 

After learning her own story as a teen, Ohden says she remembers thinking, “I must not be loved.” That’s a thought and feeling she says is common among abortion survivors. 

When Ohden was 19, she began looking for her birth family. It took about a decade for her to track down her medical records, which included the names of her parents. At about the same time, Ruth learned that Ohden had survived the abortion. 

Ohden made contact with her birth family in 2007, but it was not until 2013 that Ohden really began corresponding with them and spoke with her mother for the first time. 

As it turned out, both Ohden and her birth mother were—and still are—living in Kansas City, Missouri. They arranged a time to meet, and Ohden says she remembers her mother embracing her, saying, “I never got to hold you.” 

“I will never forget the look in Ruth’s eyes that day,” Ohden said of her mother. 

Melissa Ohden’s mother, Ruth, is now a big part of her life. (Photo: Melissa Ohden)

Today, Ohden and her birth mother see each other often. And as news of the Supreme Court’s draft opinion reportedly overturning Roe v. Wade—the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide—spread, Ohden says her “birth mother sent me a text and said, ‘I’ve been thinking about you with everything that’s going on right now. I love you.’” 

Ohden’s own story compelled her to create the Abortion Survivors Network, a community of abortion survivors who together are seeking healing and offering support to one another and their families. 

The organization has worked with about 600 abortion survivors, helping them to find peace. 

“There is this little piece of us that feels like we are so unworthy,” Ohden says of abortion survivors, “that we are so broken, that there’s no way anybody would love us if they actually knew who we were.” 

With Roe v. Wade seemingly set to be overturned by the Supreme Court, Ohden hopes that those who call for abortion to remain legal at the federal level will realize “they’re protesting our lives somehow being protected.” 

As the court prepares to release its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, likely at the end of next month, “I am hopeful that the justices aren’t going to fall to the pressure of the abortion industry,” Ohden said. 

As the debates over abortion continue in the public square, she says her hope is that people understand the need for the protection of the unborn “is a part of many people’s life stories.”

“I hope that, as we engage in this discussion,” Ohden added, “people see the humanity of people like me and Ruth.”

Learn more about the work of the Abortion Survivors Network here.

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